SAMSUNG HOLIDAY COMMERCIAL

An airport, a city street, a hotel room and a living room—these four different environments appear in a 2014 YouTube commercial for Samsung’s Galaxy Note4. But behind the scenes, the holiday-themed video was shot within the confines of a single 12-by-12-foot space, its two walls and floor animated with 3D projections that served as virtual backdrops for each scene.

Commissioned by Samsung and the advertising agency Big Spaceship, the project was a collaboration between Materials & Methods and Sherpa Productions, a full-service film production company based in New York City. Materials & Methods was heavily involved in every aspect of the project—developing the storyboards, designing the set and 3D animations, casting the actors, overseeing the shoot and final editing. The resulting commercial was a viral success, attracting more than two million views in its first month on YouTube.

“This project provided a great learning experience and was rather exciting as we got to see our area of expertise intersect with movie-making,” said Jeff Grantz, founder and creative director of Materials & Methods. “There are still huge opportunities in this arena. Projection mapping is making its way into standard practices for movie-making, allowing productions to superimpose altered reality into a real environment.”

The commercial set was designed with two custom-built projection screens, installed using a knife-edge corner assembly that allowed for animations to continue all the way to their meeting point without rendering visible shadows and indicating a seam. Similarly, the screens were terminated directly into the floor surface, allowing the content to merge with floor projections and enabling the perceived constraints of the room to be moved in any direction. Two Christie 20,000-lumen HD projectors were situated at extreme angles behind the screens, and a third—a 14,000-lumen Christie HD projector—was suspended overhead, casting animations onto the ground. A team of animators was present on-site to make immediate corrections and modifications to 3D scenes and ensure the best possible results.

The video was shot over the course of two days in a production studio in Queens. Each scene required a close choreography between the camera positions and projected content, in order to maintain the trompe l’oeil effect and blur the line between the virtual environments and reality. The opening sequence of the actress walking through what seems like a continuous hallway, for instance, was actually shot as she walked along a treadmill, with the projected environment changing behind her. The fascinating effort behind the smoke-and-mirrors effects ultimately led the final video to incorporate a “making of” aspect, providing viewers with a behind-the-scenes look into the magic behind filming.